Booker T. Washington is used to being in this position this time of year.
The Tornadoes are drawing closer to another state championship.
Their next opponent could be Cocoa High, a team Booker T. has sent home from the playoffs each of the past five seasons.
But over the course of a sometimes tumultuous season, the Tornadoes have heard the doubters that think this could be the end of their historic reign.
"We wanted to send a statement that we’re a solid football team and we’re getting better at the right time," Booker T. Washington coach Tim "Ice" Harris said. "We wanted to show that we’re a different team right now."
Performances like Thursday night’s 44-14 blowout win over Edison delivered a clear message that Booker T. is quite capable of making its way to Orlando and potentially winning a fifth consecutive state title.
The Tornadoes (9-3) advanced to the state semifinals for the sixth year in a row and will face either Cocoa or Orlando Jones next Friday on the road. Their opponent will be determined this Friday night. Edison (8-2) made its first playoff appearance and first trip to the second round since 2005.
Booker T. has beaten Cocoa in the semifinal round each of the past five seasons.
"It’s going to take heart and belief [to beat them again]," Booker T. Washington quarterback Daniel Richardson said. "We have to believe we can beat any team in the country."
Booker T., which beat Edison (8-2) for the District 8-4A title earlier this season, scored 30 unanswered points following a key defensive stand late in the second quarter.
On that series, Red Raiders quarterback Malcolm Vigille appeared to find the end zone from two yards out. But Edison was penalized for aiding the runner into the end zone, nullifying the touchdown.
On the ensuing play, the Red Raiders were stopped on downs when Eldridge Thomas was tackled for a loss on a pass from Vigille.
Booker T. answered quickly when Richardson found Quayvon Beckford for a 20-yard score and followed that with a two-point conversion pass to Tyquan Thornton to give the Tornadoes a 22-8 lead at the half.
Richardson led the rout with 250 yards and four touchdown passes on 11 of 14 attempts.
"Daniel’s development has been well the last few weeks," Harris said. "We’ve been putting him in a lot of situations where we put pressure on him since he’s a young quarterback. He’s been seeing a lot of different defenses and he’s been doing a great job in the film room and getting confidence reading the defense and that’s improved his chances of being a solid quarterback in the future."
A major key Thursday, and likely going forward is Booker T.’s ability to run the football.
Senior Craig Nelson ran for 116 yards on 20 carries, surpassing the 100-yard mark for the third consecutive game after doing so only once this season prior.
"We needed a running game early in the year and we really didn’t have it," Harris said. "If we can get that part of our offense going we’ll balance ourselves and really give ourselves an opportunity to win another state championship."
Booker T.’s defense had four sacks in the second half, including two by Jaquan Beaver, and Richard Dames had an interception as it held Edison to 148 total yards.
"Our defense did a great job and we had a good plan for some things they did differently against Clewiston than they did the first time we played them," Harris said. "We did a great job stopping the big play and their big skill guys."